Doctor, Lawyer and Judicial Chief
Peter Early Love was born on July 7, 1818 in Laurens County, Georgia. His merchant father Amos Love, Clerk of the Superior Court of Laurens County, named him for Governor Peter Early of Georgia, who was the first judge of Laurens County Superior Court. His mother was the former Margaret James. Peter had two sisters, Jane, who married General Eli Warren, and Mary Ann, who married Moses Guyton. Educational opportunities in the area were virtually nonexistent. So, Peter was home schooled by his parents and possibly by a live-in teacher. At the age of eight, Peter had to face the first crisis of his life, the death of his father. Margaret Love married Samuel Caldwell and the family moved from Laurens County. Peter lived with his guardian and older brother-in-law General Eli Warren in Houston County. Under the guidance of General Warren, Peter began to plan a career as a lawyer.
Love matriculated at Franklin College at the University of Georgia in 1834. He left Athens in 1837 to pursue a career as a doctor. After attending the Philadelphia College of Medicine, Dr. Love entered the medical field. He first married Martha Stroud, who died shortly after their marriage. He then married Mary Bracewell of Hawkinsville. Dr. Love decided that the practice of medicine was not in his future.
After a short stay in Houston County, Love moved to Thomasville in Thomas County. Thomas County became the nucleus of legal and political activities of South Georgia. In 1840, he served as a delegate to the Electoral College, voting in favor of William Henry Harrison. Dr. Love was admitted to the practice of law by the Superior Court of Thomas County, Georgia. Among Love's fellow attorneys were James L. Seward, Archibald T. McIntyre and Augustin H. Hansell, all of whom moved from Middle Georgia to Thomasville.
Peter Love made his first venture into elective office in 1843 when he was elected Solicitor General of the Southern Circuit, which stretched from Laurens County to Charlton County in the southeastern corner of the state to Decatur County in the southwestern corner. As Solicitor General, Love was charged with the responsibility of prosecuting criminal cases. The large dimensions of the circuit required Love to be constantly on the road, appearing at least twice a year in each of the counties within the circuit. He took office on November 11, 1843, replacing Augstin Hansell and served for four years.
After a year out of office, Love won the election as the Senator from the 12th District of Georgia in 1849. It was a time of immense political upheaval across the state and the nation. Each southern state was faced with the question of secession or reaching a compromise by allowing new states to enter the Union free of slavery. Love took the position of leaving the Union, a position not shared by the populace of Thomas County. Though he was pro slavery, Love owned a small family of slaves in 1840. By 1860, he had disposed of all of the 19 slaves which he had owned a decade before.
During the decade of the 1850s, Love rose to the pinnacle of his life. In 1852, he replaced Judge Hansell as Judge of the Southern Circuit which meant another return to the road. He was elected in 1853 and again two and four years later. Despite the rigors of his trial schedules, Judge Love was a leading citizen of Thomas County. In 1856, he helped to organize a college for women, which eventually became known as Young's Female College. Along with William H. Hail, he owned and edited the Wiregrass Reporter. When it became apparent that the South was headed toward a military crisis with the North over the issue of state rights and slavery, many communities organized their own military companies. As Captain Love, Peter was given the command of the Thomas Guards. As if they were kindred spirits and going through parallel lives, Augstin Hansell was right there with Judge Love, serving as his first lieutenant.
Judge Love, a popular judge throughout the state, sought higher inspirations. In 1858, he resigned from the bench to conduct a successful campaign for a seat as a Congressman for the 1st Congressional District of Georgia replacing Congressman James L. Seward, a native of Dublin and his former law partner. Judge Love returned to the bench for a brief time and remained there until he was scheduled to take office in the winter of 1859. Near the end of his first term, Congressman Love addressed the Congress on the issue of slavery. Love challenged his fellow congressmen to find a single sentence in the Bible which condemned slavery. In fact, he cited several passages which distinguished master and slave and proclaimed that the Bible provided guidelines for the regulation of slavery and therefore justified its existence.
Differences between the North and South continued to diverge. Congressman Love traveled to Charleston, South Carolina to attend a convention on the issue of secession from the Union. He won reelection to Congress that fall. But more importantly to Love and the nation as a whole, Republican Abraham Lincoln defeated a split ticket of three Democratic candidates. The Southern states held true to their promise and voted to secede from the United States to form the Confederate States of America. On January 23, 1861, Congressman Love and his fellow Georgia congressional delegates resigned their seats and left Washington, D.C. As one southern state after another adopted resolutions to leave the Union, war seemed imminent.
Congressman Love still had a burning desire to serve the people of Thomas County. In the summer of 1861, his fellow citizens elected him to represent them in the state legislature. He served for two years during the early years of the War Between the States and was honored by his fellow colleagues, who named him Speaker Pro Tempore of the House of Representatives. In 1863, he returned to Thomasville, where he was elected mayor.
On November 8, 1866, at the relatively young age of forty-eight, Peter Early Love died. He was buried in a family plot in the Old City Cemetery. Peter had four children. His sons Amos J. Love, a Confederate cavalry captain, and Peter Early Love, Jr., both died never having married. He had two daughters, Mattie, who married Rev. Robert Harris and Margaret "Maggy," who married O.C. Hall. The city of Thomasville permanently honored the memory of Congressman, Judge, Solicitor, Senator, Representative and Mayor Peter Early Love by naming one of the city's busiest thoroughfares "Love Street."